1. Today’s featured art for the Friday Five is a call for help. Christine E Striemer’s cat Gary is missing. She’s offering an award for whoever finds him: My sweet little Gary went missing Oct 21/2013. An 8″ x 8″ custom pet portrait (or any 8″ x 8″ painting of your choosing) goes to whoever finds her in Eston, SK area!
UPDATE: Gary has been found!! She’s safe and sound at home with Christine. 🙂
2. We are nearing the end of our fundraiser for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Don’t forget, when you make a donation of $5 or more I’ll send you an ACEO and you get entered to win a Think Pink bracelet by Lisa Wiktorek. See the full details here: Raising Funds for National Breast Cancer Foundation.
“The guy who takes a chance, who walks the fine line between the known and unknown, who is unafraid of failure, will succeed.”
– Gordon Parks
‘Do you know who Gordon Parks is?’ If you answered ‘No’ I was with you 5-6 years ago. While researching something online one night, I came across an area college photography contest. It mentioned the man the contest was named after, Gordon Parks. I sought to learn more the artist worthy of a college art competition.
If you answered ‘Yes’ you may relate to me now six years later. Here I am with a shelf full of books on and by him, a signed photo of him for inspiration on my office wall, and he is discussed so often in my college courses on photography, that my students often affectionately refer to him as “Gordon baby”.
The youngest of fifteen children, Parks was born in 1912 and raised in Fort Scott, Kansas. Fort Scott is approximately 50 miles from where I sit typing this article. Our great state is known for many historical events, including Brown vs. the Board of Education, a court decision that theoretically ended segregation in schools, the famed Buffalo soldiers black Calvary, abolitionist John Brown, and Nicodemus, the only continuously surviving all-black community west of the Mississippi. Yet it took me until the age of thirty-five to learn about this man, and what I learned impressed me beyond the words I can put together.
From meager beginnings great things came to be. Parks repeatedly credits his parents as being his heroes, for the “Compassion and generosity”, as they managed to raise such a large family in a small two-bedroom house. They helped to prepare him for a rough road that life had dealt him. Racism was a normal part of life in Kansas during his childhood, and he commented he considered himself “lucky to be alive especially when I remember that four of my close friends died of senseless brutality before they were twenty-one.”
At the age of fifteen, his mother, a lifelong influence on him, passed away. As the youngest, his older siblings had long moved on and started their own lives. The young man went to live with an older sister in Minnesota, once there he and his brother-in-law had a disagreement. Gordon was forced out of the home and onto the thirty below zero streets. He managed to survive by working menial jobs, including a piano player in a brothel.
Eventually he fell in love and married. But he knew he would never be able to support himself and his growing family on his low wages. Searching for another way to make a living that would allow him to express himself, he knew he wanted more from life. He had witnessed others around him choose a life of violence and inevitably saw them fall victim of the life they chosen.
While working as a waiter on a train, he frequently found himself in Chicago, on layovers. On one such stop he viewed pictures of the bombing of the ‘Panay’, a U.S. Navy gunboat. Eventually he also saw images created by the Farm Security Administration photographers, such as Dorthea Lange, Roy Stryker, Walker Evans and others. They all showed him that he could express himself and still show what was happening around him. So at the age of twenty five he was inspired to buy a used camera for $7.50, and he to seriously pursue photography.
Ultimately he landed a job at Life magazine as a photographer and reporter from 1948-1968. But this was only a small portion of what this man has achieved. Below is a summery of a few of the things he has done over the course of the last ninety-one years.
The next day he shot a roll of film on the camera and sent the photos off to be processed. The people of Eastman Kodak saw his images and h=gave him encouraging words that lead to them giving him a small show in a storefront window in Minneapolis.
In time his photography won him a fellowship from Julius Rosenwald Foundation. This enabled him to begin working closely with the Farm Services Administration (FSA) and the noted photographer Roy Stryker.
In 1942 Parks moves his family to Washington D.C. in order to work for the FSA. On his first day in Washington, Stryker told him to get a meal, see a movie and to buy a new suit. But when Parks tried to do as he was told, he was shown the back door, refused service, and the stores mysteriously did not have his size, no matter what size he asked for. When Stryker asked how things went Parks commented that, “Mississippi couldn’t have been worse.” Stryker explained to him that his job was now to show through his photographs the way the country really was. It was not enough for him to simply take a photograph and label it “bigot”. He would have to do more to truly show what was happening.
It did not take Parks long to begin a journey of a lifetime. His first professional photo was “American Gothic”. A charwoman happened to be mopping the floor of the FSA building when everyone else had left for the day, and Parks asked her to pose for his camera. Two days later he showed the piece to Stryker. He simply shook his head as he viewed the image. “Well your catching on, but that picture could get us all fired.”
Growing up in Kansas, when he did, he was not encouraged to go to college. Nevertheless he has gone on to be awarded over fifty honorary doctorate degrees from various universities. And despite the racism that was present in the industry, he was hired as a fashion photographer for Vogue Magazine, and became cofounder of Essence magazine. At the age of thirty-five he published his first book, “Flash Photography”, the start of numerous others, including ‘The Learning Tree’ in 1963. It is required reading for many school districts across the nation, and often included among the ‘most frequently challenged books list’. The latter he made into a feature film, as the first African American film director for a major studio (Warner Brothers). The filming required Parks to return back to Fort Scott Kansas to complete the project.
But the creation that most people recognize with his name is the movie “Shaft” in 1971. Making him what many consider as one of the contributions to the blaxploitation genre. Donald Faulkner, director of the Writers Institute once commented, “Gordon Parks was like the Jackie Robinson of film. His history as a filmmaker is part of American history. He broke ground for a lot of people, Spike Lee, John Singleton, who are working successfully now.”
His achievements are even more remarkable, when you consider that a man who never graduated High School achieved these things. To help rectify the situation, last July a delegation from his hometown, including a former mayor, came to New York and presented him with a high school diploma from the Fort Scott high school. Seventy-seven years after a teacher named Miss McClintock, told Parks and other black students within the school, “Don’t waste your parents’ money on college. You’ll wind up as porters and maids.” Parks is said to credit her with “…pushing me to find her wrong”.
This past February 2003, Parks publisher released the book, “The Sun Stalker,” a novel based on the life of J.W. Turner. It was his eighteenth book, including three full-length memoirs. Life magazine still calls upon him to write essays from time to time. Today at the age of ninety-one, when his health permits, Gordon Parks continues to do speaking engagements, and to personally accept awards.
If you wish to see his work in person, you can currently view a portion until February 29th, 2004 where a portion of his work is included in the International Center of Photography’s, NY, NY exhibition “Only Skin Deep; Changing Visions of the American Self”.
As an instructor, I encourage my students to seek out a mentor. It is expected that looking to others will find them guidance, ideas and hopefully prevent them from having to ‘reinvent the wheel’. It is also hoped that they will choose someone that will show them anything is possible. For me, one such person has been Gordon Parks. Although he began life as a poverty stricken youth on the Kansas Prairie, he seems to finally be gaining the recognition he has long deserved, as both a creative genius and an inspiration for many generations to come.
I am Windi Rosson of Winjimir Studio which is located in the middle of the woods, GA
How were you introduced to Facebook?
By other artist with whom I had lost touch with over the years. I was glad to find them again and then ended up adding a page for my work that is just art related.
Any tips for other artists starting a Facebook Page?
I think having a page dedicated to your artwork and business that is separate from your personal page is a plus. Keep it updated, and make sure to respond to comments.
What’s your favorite Facebook Page feature?
I like the ability to update from my cell phone. I can update about an event I am at or post work in progress shots directly from my studio, and get immediate feedback. Oh, and incorporating my Etsy store right on the page has been great too.
What’s coming next from your studio?
The festival season is gearing up and I will be focusing on that. I have just started on some new pieces for Art-O-Mat and am finishing up some new and exciting Art Skrap items!
2011 is shaping up to be the biggest year for juried exhibits in EBSQ’s almost 11-year history, with our first juried show of the year, Motion Photography, accepting entries through the end of March. We recently sat down with this month’s juror, photojournalist Eric Schmadel, to learn a little about his background, his approach to photographing objects in motion, as well as some concrete tips for getting your best shot.
My name is Eric Schmadel and I’ve been a photojournalist for the last 15 years. I’ve spent 12, going on 13 of those years at the Tribune-Review in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. I’ve won some awards on the local, state and national level for my work, but that’s not what’s important here. I’d like to share a little about my background in the field and my opinions on action photography.
I became a photojournalist when I had two revelations as a psychology major in college. One was that I started to believe more in psychiatry (and I wasn’t going to med school) and the second was that I should not be responsible for anyone’s mental health. I needed to find a career that suited me. My roommate at that time was the photography editor at the student newspaper so I informed him that I was going to buy a camera and take a photography class and that he should hire me. He did and after a series of right place/right time job openings, I landed in Greensburg.
Though I cover anything that happens on my shift on a daily basis, I would say that 75% of what I shoot is sports. My shift is structured in a way that I am one of the main high school sports photographers in our chain of newspapers in the Greater Pittsburgh region. I do some college sports, but that accounts for less than 10% of the sports photography that I do. I suppose I became a sports photographer by default because of my shift and I fell in love with it. Sport, any sport, any game, holds the potential to make a beautiful and timeless photograph. The peak action, the moments around that action and the old “thrill of victory, agony of defeat” can be very rewarding as a photographer.
I want to touch on the fact that first and foremost, I’m a photojournalist, not a photographer when it comes to sports coverage. I am working hard to produce the best image I can that tells the story of a game. That can be anything from the girl that scored the game-winning basket in a high school playoff game to a dejected senior football player that just lost the last heart-breaking game of his college career and everything in between. I’ve passed over wonderful action shots of dropped passes and meaningless tackles in my edits because they don’t contribute anything to the story of the game once it goes to print. That, to me, is where the art lies in sport photography and in action photography. I want to see meaningful peak action.
As for judging other styles of action or motion photography, well that takes a little more interpretation. I’ve won awards for photos where I’ve panned with the subject to blur the action and give a sense of fluidity and I’ve used high-powered strobes to stop droplets of water. I think what separates art from snapshots is highly subjective. What I may give only a passing glance to may be the world’s most wonderful photo to another viewer. As a juror, I’ll be looking for any number of qualities. The first one being that intangible connection one feels when you first see a photograph that you like. We’ve all seen those photos and we’ve all taken them. You know the photo that you can’t stop looking at because you can’t believe that everything came together just right to make it happen. Secondly, I’ll be looking for technique. 99 times out of 100, it’s not enough to just point the camera at the action and stop it. Composition does still count for something in the world of art. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a photo and thought “if the photographer had just taken a knee and looked up at the subject rather than down,” or “that’s a nice image, but all I see is that light pole growing out of the subject’s head.” Lastly, I like to see subjects that I’ve seen a million times before in a new light. Bird in flight stopped in mid-air? Maybe try panning with it and keeping it’s eye in focus. These aren’t suggestions (yet), just the musings of a juror.
I know every serious photographer has probably heard these tips before, but it can’t hurt to repeat them. When you’re looking for action shots there are two basic ways to go about it: stop the action or interpret the action. Stopping the action with a fast shutter and a large aperture is best for things like sports and most wildlife action photography. You’re looking to show the viewer the peak action in a way exposes elements that were too fast for the eye to see. Rippling muscle and a grimace on an enthusiastic slam dunk or the spread wings of a hummingbird at a feeder are good examples of why you might want to go this route. Panning with your subject or doing multiple exposures are better suited to showing the way things move. An incredible photo of (then) Arizona Diamondback pitcher Randy Johnson comes to mind where the photographer used a slower shutter speed and moved the camera with his wind up and delivery (while keeping his face and necklace sharp) to give a sense of motion to the image. Multiple exposures work well to show things like how a skateboarder moves during a kickflip. That can be accomplished with a flash that has a repeating strobe. The only other suggestion I have for action photography is this: know your subject. My most successful sports images have come from sports and teams that I know and understand. For example, you are more likely to get a great photo of a reception in a football game if you know which receiver a team likes to go to on third and long.
All this takes me to my last point. Through the internet, I’ve learned that there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of extremely talented photographers out there. I am by no means the best there is. And any one of them can make a great photo at a professional sporting event with great gear and that wonderful stadium and arena lighting. But if you ask me, the best sports photographers in the world are the ones producing consistently good work in dimly lit high school or middle school facilities. When you start getting recognition for that work, that’s when you feel professionally successful. That and when Aunt Sally calls you up to order 30 prints because you took the best photo of her niece playing field hockey that she’s ever seen!